Art Criticism; Gallery Formal Analysis Essay

For this essay, you are required to go online to one of the following institutions: Kirkland Museum of Fine Art, the Robischon Gallery, RULE Gallery, the RedLine Gallery, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Arvada Arts Center. You are NOT allowed to go to any other gallery webpage beyond the ones listed. You will search these gallery pages for works of art. Often times you will find images under tabs labeled artists, past exhibitions, upcoming exhibitions, etc. Some of these webpages might even have virtual exhibitions going on! For this assinmgent, you are going to be acting as an art critic and critiquing a work of art you find on one of the above gallery webpages.

Defining Art Criticism:
• Art criticism is responding to, interpreting meaning, and making critical judgments about specific works of art.·
• Art critics help viewers perceive, interpret, and judge artworks.
• Critics tend to focus more on modern and contemporary art from cultures close to their own while art historians tend to study works made in cultures that are more distant in time and space. You are going to be a critic!
• When initially introduced to art criticism, many people associate negative connotations with the word “criticism.”
• A professional art critic may be:
o a newspaper reporter
o a scholar writing for professional journals or texts, or·
o an artist writing about other artists.

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The goal of this essay is to critically analyze an artwork. Choose only one work of art from the above listed places that stands out to you and describe it by answering the below questions. You do not need to answer all of them (unless you want to)! Answer the ones you can and enough of them to get 3 full pages. However, you do need to have at least one paragraph for EACH of the below sections. So, one paragraph for the describe section, one paragraph for the analyze section, one paragraph for the interpretation section, and one paragraph for the judgment section.

DO NOT include the image of your work of art inside your actual essay. It will take up room and then your essay will not be three full pages. Upload the image separately into D2L.

Formal Analysis Outline:

Tell what you see (the visual facts).

• What is the name of the artist who created the artwork?
• What kind of artwork is it, what medium is it?
• What is the name of the artwork?
• When was the artwork created?
• List the literal objects in the painting (trees, people, animals, mountains, rivers, etc.).
• What do you notice first when you look at the work(s)? Why?
• What kinds of colors do you see? How would you describe them?
• What shapes can we see? What kind of edges do the shapes have?
• Are there lines in the work(s)? If so, what kinds of lines are they?
• What sort of textures do you see? How would you describe them?
• What time of day/night is it? How can we tell?
• What is the overall visual effect or mood of the work(s)?

Mentally separate the parts or elements, thinking in terms of textures, shapes/forms, light/dark or bright/dull colors, types of lines, and sensory qualities. In this step consider the most significant art principles that were used in the artwork. Describe how the artist used them to organize the elements. (YOU NEED TO TALK ABOUT ELEMENTS OF ART AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN)

Suggested questions to help with analysis:
 How has the artist used colors in the work(s)?
 What sort of effect do the colors have on the artwork?
 How has the artist used shapes within the work of art?
 How have lines been used in the work(s)? Has the artist used them as an important or dominant part of the work, or do they play a different roll?
 What role does texture play in the work(s)? Has the artist used the illusion of texture or has the artist used actual texture? How has texture been used within the work(s).
 How has the artist used light in the work(s)? Is there the illusion of a scene with lights and shadows, or does the artist use light and dark values in a more abstracted way?
 How has the overall visual effect or mood of the work(s)? been achieved by the use of elements of art and principles of design.
 How were the artists design tools used to achieve a particular look or focus?

An interpretation seeks to explain the meaning of the work based on what you have learned so far about the artwork, what do you think the artist was trying to say?

 What was the artist’s statement in this work?
 What do you think it means?
 What does it mean to you?
 How does this relate to you and your life?
 What feelings do you have when looking at this artwork?
 Do you think there are things in the artwork that represent other things/symbols?
 Why do you think that the artist chose to work in this manner and made these kinds of artistic decisions?
 Why did the artist create this artwork?

After careful observation, analysis, and interpretation of an artwork, you are ready to make your own judgment. This is your personal evaluation based on the understandings of the work(s). Here are questions you might consider:

 Why do you think this work has intrinsic value or worth (not the price of the work)? What is the value you find in the work(s)? (For example, is it a beautiful work of art, does it convey an important social message, affects the way that I see the world, makes insightful connections, reaffirms a religious belief, etc.)
 Do you think that the work(s) has a benefit for others?
 Do you find that the work communicates an idea, feeling or principle that would have value for others?
 Could the reason you find the work lacking come from a poor use of the elements of art? Explain.
 Is the subject matter appealing/unappealing, imaginative/unimaginative, or appealing/repulsive? How?
 What kind of an effect do you think the work could have for others?
 Rather than seeing the work as being very effective or without total value, does the work fall somewhere in-between? Do you think that the work is just o.k.? What do you base this opinion on? The use of elements of art? Lack of personal expression? The work lacks a major focus? Explore your criticism of the work(s) as much as you would any positive perceptions. Realize that your own tastes and prejudices may enter into your criticism. Give your positive and negative perceptions.

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